“… the only show that I simultaneously love and hate.”
Just a heads up: this “review” will feature very heavy spoilers for all of Sherlock. Proceed at your own risk.
Sherlock is a very interesting show to me because it is the only show that I simultaneously love and hate. Of course you could assume that by saying I “love and hate” a show, that my opinion is firmly in the middle, but with Sherlock it’s different; I legitimately feel both extremes at the same time when watching Sherlock. It’s weird because to me Sherlock does a lot of things so well, almost perfectly, but then it royally fucks up others. For example: Sherlock does a great job at bringing the classic stories of Sherlock Holmes into a modern setting. We get to experience these classic stories, but in a format that we can relate to. Unfortunately, Sherlock does shit the bed in terms of writing more than a few times. I will be watching an episode of Sherlock, completely in love with what I am seeing, but then a character will show up, or someone will do something that immediately makes me realize why I hate the show. Of course that doesn’t negate my love for it, I just feel both emotions at the same time. I’m saying all of this because I decided to do a complete re-watch of the show to prepare for my viewing of season four. What follows will be my thoughts on each individual season of Sherlock.
Season one of Sherlock is what I would call a great start to a television show. In the first episode we not only get introduced to the characters, but also the general feel of the show as a whole. One thing that rubs me the wrong way with Sherlock is how much of an asshole literally every character is. Of course we warm up to these characters over the course of the series, but in the first episode it is really jarring to have characters be at each others throats, and none of them be “the good guy”. I realized when re-watching season one that Sherlock could be renamed “Every Character in this Show is a Cunt”, and it would perfectly encapsulate the feeling that I get when watching. Another thing that is made blatantly apparent to me when watching Sherlock is that in the first episode, Sherlock seems like a superhero. Of course this is really only a problem with the first episode, but it really is kind of annoying to have a character go “Oh ya, I figured out that problem as soon as I walked in the room and then I texted everyone in London about it simultaneously”. It’s hard to get attached to the character when he seems so alien, but much like a lot of other things you get used to it. It also helps that this “super power complex” gets toned down in later episodes. The biggest problem I have with episode one of Sherlock is the villain. Sherlock Holmes is again made out to be some kind of superhero, but the villain turns out to be some old guy who makes people commit suicide at gunpoint. Of course this character tries to rationalize his actions by saying “I don’t make the people kill themselves, I talk to them and they decide to kill themselves”. That’s not really true when you are holding a gun (however fake it may be) to their heads. That’s like me robbing a bank at gunpoint and saying “I didn’t force the teller to give me all of the money, I spoke to them and they decided to empty the register for me”. Of course this underwhelming villain turns out to be a Moriarty pawn (which is a common them in this series), so he doesn’t really matter. Episode two is where Sherlock starts to pick up for me. We have a legitimate mystery, and a villain who doesn’t suck. Episode two is also where the show really comes into its own in my opinion because they no longer have to waste time introducing characters like in episode one. If I had to pick a flaw with episode two, it would be that the episode does kind of drag in the middle in my opinion. This is before all of the pieces start to fall into place, so it is not as interesting as either the beginning or the end of the episode. Episode three is definitely what I would call the strong point of season one. We get to see a brilliant ‘rapid fire’ Sherlock episode which means that the pace is lightning fast. We get to see Sherlock do his thing, but also deal with some larger consequences. Ya, episode 3 is really good; until the end that is. The ending of the episode finally reveals to us the mastermind Moriarty, and to say it is uderwhelming would be an understatement. Sherlock is a cold, calculated, sociopathic genius who doesn’t have friends because of his tendencies to ruin relationships. I completely agree with Sally Donovan who said that Sherlock “would eventually get bored. One day we’re going to be standing over a body that was put there by Sherlock Holmes”. Not only is this thought chilling to think about, but it is the perfect set up for Moriarty. Imagine: Moriarty is a man like Sherlock Holmes, but he got bored. Now he spends his time toying with Sherlock in an attempt to finally face someone who is his equal mentally-speaking. Unfortunately what we get is a whining, petulant ass who essentially fails upwards. When we first see Moriarty, I honestly thought that he was doing a stupid voice just to mess with Sherlock. When it didn’t stop, the next thing that popped into my head was “How the hell is this guy on par with Sherlock”. This isn’t even my opinion anymore, this is just a fact. How could Moriarty, a man who is seemingly run by his emotions, even stand a chance against the robot that is Sherlock Holmes. It is astounding to me that Moriarty is played the way he is, because it doesn’t work at all. I could go on for days about why I hate Moriarty, but there is still 3 seasons and a special to cover, so let’s move on.
Season two might just be my favourite season of Sherlock. The first episode starts very strong with a a good story, and some really needed character development (the whole scene with Ms. Hudson). I say “really needed” because we’ve been following these characters for a while now, and hadn’t yet seen the ‘human’ side of Sherlock, at least to this extent. This allows us to relate to him on a deeper level, as well as set up quite a few other plot points in this season. We also get a wonderful introduction to the character of Irene Adler, who is a much better villain that Moriarty in my opinion. The way that Adler admires Sherlock, but at the same time is able to manipulate him and get the upper hand is absolutely brilliant. The second episode is the one that I think is the best “jump-on” point for new viewers. Like I mentioned before, season one episode one is very character heavy because it is introducing everyone. By season two episode two we already know all of the characters, and the story of this episode is very much a stand-alone adventure. This allows for people to see the chemistry between characters, and get a feel for what the show is like, without having to deal with the (in my opinion, weaker) over-arching story lines that Sherlock seems to use more and more. The one gripe I have with this episode is the god-awful CGI at the end of the episode. Though it is only there for a few seconds, it was bad enough that it almost ruined the episode for me. I honestly have no idea who thought it was alright to include it. Season two ends on a high note with another Moriarty scavenger hunt. This episode is interesting because, even though I hate the character of Moriarty, I do respect his plan in this episode to completely discredit Sherlock. It is clever, and it not only keeps the viewer guessing but it also makes important characters (like Watson) think twice about who Sherlock really is. The episode ends with a very emotional scene that again shows us a little bit more about the characters that we are so used to at this point. The end of this season of Sherlock, marks the beginning of the end in terms of my enjoyment of the show; so let’s get on to that.
Season three of Sherlock starts with not only the worst episode, but the episode that to me showcases everything that is wrong with the show. First and foremost, this episode is driven completely by characters (which in my opinion is the weakest part of Sherlock). When you strip away the cool case-solving, Sherlock turns into one of the most bland character dramas that I have ever seen. The characters are pretty basic, and nothing really has much consequence because it is always resolved within the 90 minute runtime. All of this awful drama is what drives this episode, so it is needless to say that episode one of season three is an absolute chore to get through. On top of all of that, the episode also showcases what is wrong with the fans of Sherlock (or really any show) by giving merit to all of the insane theories that are concocted. I understand that this is a plot point of the episode meant to showcase the fact that Sherlock has become so famous that, not only does everyone know him but they also know that he is a very clever man who enjoys playing tricks. These theories present themselves as fact until we get a reveal that it is just some asshole fan imagining what happened. And the Anderson character shift is absolutely bizarre as well. I understand that the seasons take place two years apart (both in release and time frame) so we missed a lot, but the character shift from Anderson is one that should have been shown. I mean, even a scene of Anderson crying when Sherlock “died” or something would have helped, but instead the season just starts and the man who despised Sherlock most is now suddenly his biggest fan. Luckily, episode two of season three is so good, it might actually be my favourite episode of Sherlock. Much like episode one, episode two is character driven but there is one difference: there is no forced drama. We get to see Sherlock be his awkward self, we get to see Watson put up with him, and we get to see all of the familiar faces from the show together in one room. The episode also features multiple cases that are shown to us, which again makes the pacing of the episode just fly by. Episode two of season three might just be the best Sherlock episode in terms of showing what the show could be all the time. Episode three starts off promising, with yet another villain who is miles better than Moriarty. Finally, Sherlock has an enemy who is quite literally Sherlock 2.0, but who uses his powers for evil. This is exactly what Moriarty should be, but I’m not going to get into that again. Episode three is fine, until we get to the Mary reveal. Now this remains the worst part of the show in my opinion, because nothing is built up. We meet Mary in episode one of season 3, and she is nice. She cares about Watson and she puts up with Sherlock. If you combine her screen-time from episode one and episode two, she is probably in the series for about an hour. In episode three we get to see that she is an assassin. Just like that, the character who we have known for literally a fraction of a fraction of time just turned heel. I don’t give a shit, but do you know who does? Watson. The woman he has been in love with for the better part of two years (again, the time-jump is a real pain in the ass) is a liar, and there is nothing that can be done to change that. Even though this feels very contrived, what we get is a pretty emotional scene between the pair as they try to talk both this problem. But then the unexpected happens; not 20 minutes later, Watson completely forgives her, because again there is no problem that is not resolved within the 90 minute block. This remains one of the least important “twists” I have ever encountered, and it is definitely what leaves a sour taste in my mouth when I think about Sherlock as a whole.
The Sherlock special is interesting, because it is very much the outlier of the series. I understand that’s the point, but it can’t go without saying. I’m a sucker for a good period piece, and the Sherlock special definitely is one. It’s nice to see the characters that we have grown attached to be thrust back into their “natural habitats” and see how they fare when there. The set design is wonderful (along with all of the little nods to the regular series) and the costuming is amazing (again with nods to the original characters). One thing that does bug me about the special however is the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously. I understand that the entire thing is taking pace in Sherlock’s mind-palace, but even then it feels like the special is making fun of the show. These instances of “fun-poking” occur quite frequently, but they manifest themselves in different ways. In the writing of the episode we get a lot of very weird moments that stick out. The writing of the episode is where you will find a lot of these “jokes”, so that’s what I will talk about first. I guess most obvious would be the characters that have changed from the regular series. Be it Mycroft who is absolutely huge, or Molly who has to pretend to be a man, there are these little jabs at the original characters or the time-period that stick out. The dialogue of the episode also has a few really odd moments in it as well, such as characters knowing that they are in a story and phrases that shouldn’t be invented yet. Again, I understand that this entire story takes place in Sherlock’s mind, but I couldn’t help but be left wondering what could have happened if they decide to make a truly stand-alone, serious Sherlock Holmes adaptation. Even the editing of the episode pokes fun at the series’ usually creative editing, with the ‘spinning house’ edit, or the letters on a sign completely re-arranging themselves to become a different sign. Its just small things like this that stop me from becoming immersed in the episode, and make me long for a more serious take. Of course the story itself is good, until Moriarty that is. Yet again, Moriarty decides to shoehorn his way into a perfectly fine episode and ruin it with his complete lack of charm. Maybe that is why Moriarty is a criminal mastermind; his goal is to ruin every episode of Sherlock. I hate to say it, but he is currently succeeding.
Season four starts off well, with the first half of episode one, but then it quickly devolves into what has already been seen. For some reason Watson is once again mad at Mary for being an assassin (even though he already knew, and had forgiven her), and they have essentially the same argument that they have had before. Then the episode does this weird cut to an ‘affair’ that Watson was having, but not only is it not an affair but it feels very out of place in the episode. Episode one does have a very emotional scene toward the end, but it was oddly ruined by Watson’s crying. Strangely, when Watson cries in this scene he does this weird prolonged grunt that catches you completely off guard. I understand that this scene is very emotional for the character, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the sound of Watson “crying”. The episode then ends on a weirdly existential note that had absolutely no businesses being in a episode of Sherlock. Episode two starts off with more of the “character drama” portion of Sherlock, which I absolutely despise. The episode does pick up about halfway through however with yet another villain who is more imposing than Moriarty. Unfortunately, this ‘mystery’ is only about a third of the episode, and the rest is all pretty boring. Once again Watson can’t help but make me laugh while he cries because this time he is drooling uncontrollably. I don’t know what it is, but Martin Freeman can’t seem to lock-down crying for some reason. The ending of episode two drags on, and then culminates into a very confusing reveal. At this point I was absolutely ready to abandon the show. Watching these episodes was becoming more of a chore than it was enjoyable, but I decided to stick it out and watch episode three. I’m glad I did because not only is episode three my favourite episode of the season, but it might be one of my favourite episodes over all. I understand that episode three had plot-holes galore, and to some people it didn’t make sense; but to me, since I already don’t care about the ‘story’ of Sherlock, it was magnificent. The creators threw everything away and just made a no-holds-barred, fun episode and I thank them for it. Sure the ending wasn’t the best, and the situations felt very contrived, and there were no lasting consequences, and the villain felt like a superhero; but do you know what all of those traits remind me of? Pretty much any horror/thriller movie ever. And that is what episode three is: a horror/thriller film with Sherlock Holmes as the main character. The episode ends with what I would call a perfect end to the entire series, but I truly do hope that it does end here.
Sherlock is a very interesting television show. Many shows that I have watched have had their ups and downs, but none as drastic as Sherlock. The show seems to do everything right, then everything wrong all in the span of minutes. I’m not joking when I say that I hope the show ends here. Not only is it becoming harder for the show to be made (what with the two main stars being very busy), but the writers seem to be losing touch with what the show should be; a Sherlock Holmes adaptation. I don’t give a shit about John Watson’s wife being a spy, I don’t care that Sherlock is repressing memories from his childhood, I just want to see these characters solve inexplicable crimes and make me laugh. Is that too much to ask? apparently it is if the last few seasons have anything to say. I would love nothing more than for Sherlock to be a show that goes until the end of time, but unfortunately with the writing seemingly going downhill fast I think it’s time to put the show out of its misery. Much like a family pet who is in constant pain, it is time to put the show down. We can aways look back at the fun times that we had together, because no one can take those memories away, but it can’t keep struggling like this.